NBA Jam is a basketball arcade game developed by Midway in 1993. It is the first entry in the NBA Jam series, and was written entirely in assembly language. The main designer and programmer for this game was Mark Turmell.
The release of NBA Jam gave rise to a new genre of sports games which were based around action-packed gameplay. The arcade version features team rosters from the 1992-93 NBA season and the console versions use rosters from the 1993-94 NBA season. More up-to-date ports were released for the Sega CD, Game Boy, and Game Gear later in 1994.
Midway did not secure the license to use Michael Jordan's name or likeness, and as such he was not available as a player for the Chicago Bulls or any other team. Other notable absences from the home versions are Gary Payton and Shaquille O'Neal, the latter conspicuous considering his appearance on the arcade version as a member of the Orlando Magic. New Jersey Nets guard Drazen Petrovic and Boston Celtics forward Reggie Lewis, both of whom died after the release of the Arcade version, were also removed from the home version.
Midway had previously released such sports games as Arch Rivals in 1989, High Impact in 1990, and Super High Impact in 1991. The game play of NBA Jam is based on Arch Vs. Rivals, another 2-on-2 basketball video game. However, it was the release of NBA Jam that brought mainstream success to the genre.
The game became exceptionally popular, and generated a significant amount of money for arcades after its release, largely because of the fairly expensive prices for game play. The typical cost to play a full game of NBA Jam in the United States ranged from $1.00 to $2.00. Nonetheless, the game was a smash hit. The original arcade release generated revenue of $1 billion in quarters.
NBA Jam, which featured 2-on-2 basketball, was one of the first real playable basketball arcade games, and was also one of the first sports games to feature NBA-licensed teams and players, and their real digitized likenesses.
A key feature of NBA Jam was the exaggerated nature of the play - players jumped many times above their own height, making slam dunks that defied both human capabilities and the laws of physics. There were no fouls, free throws, or violations except goaltending and 24 second violations. This meant the player was able to freely shove or elbow his opponent out of the way. Additionally, the game had an "on fire" feature, where if one player made three baskets in a row, he would become "on fire" and have unlimited turbo, no goaltending, and increased shooting ability, until the other team scored (or the player had scored four consecutive baskets while "on fire").
The game is filled with easter eggs, special features and players activated by initials or button/joystick combinations. For example, pressing A five times and right five times on any Sega Genesis controller would activate 'Super Clean Floors'. 'Super Clean Floors' would caused characters to fall if they ran too fast or changed direction too quickly. And players could enter special codes to unlock hidden players, ranging from US President Bill Clinton to Hugo the Charlotte Hornets mascot. Early versions of the sequel, NBA Jam Tournament Edition, allowed players to put in codes that allowed people to play as characters from Mortal Kombat, but the NBA, uneasy over the controversies surrounding Mortal Kombat's levels of violence, forced Midway to remove these characters in later updates.
Featured teams and players
Note: Some home console versions of NBA Jam were coded later than others, and as a result of real-life roster changes or (in the cases of Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal) legal reasons, some rosters differ from version to version.
1Dražen Petrović was killed in a car crash between the release of the arcade version and the home ports. NBA Jam is said to be haunted by Petrović, due to a bug causing his last name to be randomly called out by the announcer. See ESPN interview with game designer Mark Turmell: http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?id=3668922
2Shaquille O'Neal appears only in the arcade version because his likeness was no longer licensed by the NBA by the time the home console versions were created, and the cost was too high to include him in the game (much like Michael Jordan).
1Some earlier cartridges of the SNES, Sega Genesis, and Sega Game Gear versions have Charles Barkley and Kevin Johnson on the Phoenix Suns; however, later versions replaced Barkley with Dan Majerle because Midway lost the rights to include Barkley when Accolade created Shut Up and Jam.
NBA Jam Tournament Edition
An update named NBA Jam Tournament Edition (commonly referred to as NBA Jam T.E.) featured updated rosters, new features and easter eggs combined with the same gameplay of the original. Teams now consisted of three to five players and players could be substituted into the game. The game also featured new hidden teams and hidden playable characters. Early versions of the game included characters from Midway's Mortal Kombat games. Players were also assigned more attributes, including clutch and fatigue levels. In addition, the game also introduced features such as a "Tournament" mode than turned off computer assistance and on-court hot spots that allowed for additional points or special slam dunks.
This version was also ported to the SNES, Genesis/Mega Drive, 32x. Sega Saturn, PlayStation and Atari Jaguar.
Ports and sequels
The NBA Jam games were also ported to many video game consoles as well as PC, beginning with the original's debut on the highly-publicized Jam Day (March 4, 1994). Console versions were well known for featuring many easter eggs; the home versions of Jam T.E. even allowed the player to use then-President Bill Clinton, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, then-Vice President Al Gore and Atari's Vice President of Software Development Leonard Tramiel on the Atari Jaguar version. Acclaim published the console versions, and later ended up winning the exclusive rights to use the NBA Jam name.
Acclaim used the name on NBA Jam Extreme in 1996, a 3D version of Jam which featured Marv Albert doing commentary. The game was a flop in comparison to Midway's version released that same year, rechristened NBA Hangtime, a game which featured a create-a-player and a usual batch of new features combined with a classic, but improved, NBA Jam feeling. An update called NBA Maximum Hangtime was subsequently released.
In 1995, Acclaim released a collegiate version of NBA Jam for home consoles entitled College Slam. Although the game was created to capitalize on the popularity of March Madness and the subsequent Final Four, it did not enjoy the popularity of the earlier NBA Jam games.
However, the idea was not quite dead as Midway passed it to their other sports games. The 1995 hockey release 2 On 2 Open Ice Challenge was only mildly successful at best, but Midway found success with Wayne Gretzky's 3D Hockey in 1996 and NFL Blitz in 1997. The NFL Blitz series remains active today as Blitz: The League despite the absence of an official NFL license. The success of the game brought forth another high-flying basketball game, and genuine 3D rendered (but 2D playing) sequel to NBA Jam and NBA Hangtime, NBA Showtime: NBA on NBC (which used the familiar NBA on NBC theme, Roundball Rock) in 1999, a game which was received well and had acceptable success. After it was ported, Midway decided to focus itself on other games, and after the following year's NBA Hoopz (a slower-paced, 3-on-3 copy of NBA Showtime), Midway's series ended. Acclaim continued to keep the NBA Jam name alive with its console games, although the games are only mildly popular.
Now making console games exclusively, Midway has used Jam's idea on several other sports, with NFL Blitz, NHL Hitz, MLB Slugfest, and RedCard 20-03 (a hard-hitting soccer game). Many of Jam's influences remain in their games. The latest efforts of Midway arcade basketball include NBA Ballers.
In January 2010, ESPN published reports that EA Sports is planning to release a new version of NBA Jam for the Wii video game system. Creator Mark Turmell has been hired to work on this new version in conjunction with EA Vancouver. EA later confirmed that it is working a new NBA Jam game for the Wii, EA Sports NBA Jam, retaining the "over-the-top experience" while adding new features such as "true-to-life body types, updated physics and visible player emotion." While the body types will be true-to-life, the heads will remain two dimensional.
In certain subcultures, the phrases "He's heating up" and "He's on fire" and "Boomshakalaka!" have entered into common usage. The phrases, as in the game, are used to (self) describe someone doing something successfully twice or thrice respectively, as the original expression was used for any player who scored three baskets in a row. He would be "on fire", as he then started tossing/dunking a flaming ball to the basket, burning its net in the process. The effect only wore off if the opposite team scored. The NBA Jam script was written solely by Jon Hey.
Other commentary in the game includes:
- "The Monster Jam!"
- "Jams it in!"
- "A spectacular dunk!"
- "Wild Shot!"
- "From Downtown!"
- "For Three!"
- "He's on fire!"
- "Get that outta here!"
- "Baseline leaner!!"
- "From long range!"
- "Grabs the rebound!"
- "The nail in the coffin!" - in closing seconds of game.
- "Whoomp, there it is!"
- "Puts up a brick!"
- "Can't buy a bucket!"
- "Is it the shoes?!?"
- "Count it"
- "Tenacious D"
- "Razzle Dazzle"
NBA Jam also incorporated a slogan from Spike Lee's alter-ego in his 1986 film She's Gotta Have It, Mars Blackmon, who was also featured in a Nike basketball shoe television commercial at the time. The NBA Jam commentator asked, "Is it the shoes?" after a player performed spectacularly.
The upbeat, funky music written by Jon Hey was inspired by sports music themes and has been compared to George Clinton's P-Funk All Stars. Funkadelic's 1979 (Not Just) Knee Deep shares the most similarity with the music of NBA Jam but was recorded more than a decade before NBA Jam's music was written. The likeness of George Clinton was used as the character "P. Funk" in the console versions of NBA Jam: Tournament Edition. The music of NBA Jam is well known and considered to be one of the most important aspects of the game.
In July 2009, Mortal Kombat creator Ed Boon revealed (on Twitter) that a Mortal Kombat court was to be hidden in a console port of NBA Jam or NBA Hangtime.
Mark Turmell, creator of NBA Jam, affirmed a long held suspicion that the game had a bias against the Chicago Bulls. According to Turmell, a Detroit Pistons fan, the game had special code that caused the Bulls to miss last-second shots in close games against the Pistons.
- Game Information
- NBA Jam at Museum of the Game
- NBA Jam on Votable
- NBA Jam at MobyGames
- NBA Jam for Android
- ↑ http://www.computernostalgia.net/articles/assembly.htm
- ↑ Coinop.org /// Coinop.org /// Downloading: /KB/faqs/strat-how to win at nba jam.html (html file)
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Developer Interview: Mark Turmell - Gaming Age
- ↑ "EA to announce return of 'NBA Jam'". ESPN. 4 January 2010. http://sports.espn.go.com/videogames/news/story?id=4795625.
- ↑ Boooooom-shaka-laka! EA Announces NBA Jam. Electronic Arts (11 January 2010). Retrieved on 2010-01-20
- ↑ IGN: Breaking into the Industry: Tim Kitzrow
- ↑ Hidden Mortal Kombat 'Kourt' for NBA Jam unearthed
- ↑ Robinson, Jon (28 October 2008). You Don't Know Jam. The Gamer Blog. ESPN.